Legal Considerations When Moving to a Senior Living Community

By David Inabinett, Attorney at Law

Once you have made the decision to move to a senior living community, the excitement about the positive aspects of the change may start to build. What is your move-in date? How quickly will your house sell? Which of your favorite items will you bring? How will you decorate your new home? If you own a business, do you plan to sell the business outright, or do you have a succession plan in place?

After your house is sold and the new agreement is signed, there are some things – from a legal perspective – you may want to add to your to-do list immediately after your move:

  1. Update your healthcare directives and powers of attorney. Ask if the individual(s) you previously named are still able to act on your behalf. In cases where you have moved a long distance, it may make sense to assign a trusted person in the new location to take on that responsibility. Remember to give your new doctors and the local hospital a copy of your advance directives, asking them to scan those into your medical chart. You will also want to provide one to the healthcare contact for the senior community and keep a copy in a conspicuous place in your new home where it is handy in the event of an emergency.
  2. If you have moved to another state, your old will may need to be updated. Estate and probate laws can differ by state, so you will want to update this as soon as practical. If you sold your house or other assets, references to these items should be removed from your will. Consider setting up a trust instead of a will if you have moved further from your children. A trust is much easier to administer from a distance (especially between states) and provides more privacy and ease of transfer at the time of your death, thus avoiding probate proceedings and related fees and delay.
  3. If you have moved a good distance, you will likely need to establish a new network of professionals, including doctors, an accountant, financial planner and estate planning attorney. Ask for referrals from current residents and investigate each. I strongly recommend you consider an experienced elder law attorney and a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) with access to and knowledge of local healthcare and long-term care planning resources.

I encourage you to talk with your loved ones about your plans and healthcare wishes sooner rather than later. This gives all parties the opportunity to provide input as part of a well thought out plan instead of waiting until a crisis occurs and you have little control or meaningful input. By doing so, you are taking control and making sure your wishes are carried out on your behalf rather than leaving those to chance or to those who may be unfamiliar with your wishes.

Your life can change significantly in a brief period of time. It is important to review your legal documents every two to three years or whenever you or your loved ones experience a major life event.

About the Author

David Inabinett is an estate planning and elder law attorney in North Carolina. He is the managing partner at Brinkley Walser Stoner, PLLC, a general practice firm with offices in Lexington and Greensboro. Inabinett is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers In America® for the practices of Elder Law and Trusts & Estates several years in a row. Inabinett speaks to groups in the Triad area on elder law and estate planning topics on a regular basis.

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